Oecologies: Inhabiting Premodern Worlds is a research cluster supported by The University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University. Oecologies periodically hosts and participates in conferences and colloquia. If you have questions about Oecologies, please contact Alexander Cosh
26 January 2018
Oecologies Presents Dr. Hillary Eklund, “Swamped: Wetlands and Mobility in the Early Modern Atlantic”
We are excited to welcome Dr. Hillary Eklund (Loyola University) for her upcoming talk at UBC.
Abstract: In western literary history wetlands have been consistently, though not uniformly, cast as nature’s mistakes, landscapes that time forgot, rotten blemishes on the face of the earth. So commonplace are these associations that they slide even into metaphor. Dante’s misers spend eternity in a stagnant slime that reminds them of their sluggish improvidence. Milton likewise figures Hell as a hateful bog. The protagonist of John Bunyan’s allegorical Pilgrims Progress sinks under the weight of his sin in the Slough of Despond. In short, wetlands are slow, inefficient, and aesthetically outside what we are conditioned to find beautiful. In their mixture of slow moving waters and soft soils, wetlands tend also to be cast as obstacles to human movement and progress—an association that bears out even in our own vocabularies of limitation: “swamped,” “bogged down.” This talk considers early representations of wetlands in the colonial Atlantic world, where the stubborn slowness of wetlands runs athwart the fast violence of conquest, the circulation of dominant cultural and religious attitudes, and imperatives for technological progress. Inhabitants of the English fens stubbornly resist encroaching land use practices; Irish bogs harbour rebel outlaws; the coastal marshes of New England and Virginia impede settlement; and Spanish explorers fantasize of drying the Everglades to make them more easily passable. While these temporal clashes produce widespread disregard for wetlands, their undercurrents simultaneously invite us to tarry, to sink in to the uniquely slow ecomateriality of the damp earth.
The talk will be held at 12.00pm, January 26th 2018 in Buchanan Tower 599.
22 – 25 March 2018
Renaissance Society of America, New Orleans, LA
1) Dreams in Stone: The Early Modern Lithic Imaginary I
Lithic After Life and the New Jerusalem
Tiffany J. Werth, University of California, Davis;
Taddeo’s Dream: Illusion, Delusion, and Images on Stone
Carla Benzan, University College London;
Stone Matters: Sandro Botticelli and His Drawings for Dante’s Inferno
Bronwen Wilson, University of California, Los Angeles;
2) Dreams in Stone: The Early Modern Lithic Imaginary II
Stone, Water, Lizard: Bellini’s Ascetic Desert
Lyle Massey, University of California, Irvine;
Geomedia in Early Modern Normandy
Phillip John Usher, New York University;
The Liquidity of Sand
Amy Knight Powell, University of California, Irvine.
3) Roundtable: Premodern Plants
Saturday, March 24, 9:00 to 10:30am, Hilton New Orleans Riverside, 1, 1st Floor – Grand Ballroom A
Sponsor: Associate Organization/Pacific Northwest Renaissance Society
Chair: Vin Nardizzi, University of British Columbia
Discussants: Antónia Szabari, University of Southern California
Jessica Rosenberg, University of Miami
Tom White, University of London
Natania Meeker, University of Southern California
Lara Farina, University of West Virginia
Abstract: This roundtable elaborates the methods of critical plant studies in medieval and Renaissance literature and culture. RSA members unfamiliar with critical plant studies might imagine it as a successor to critical animal studies. But as Michael Marder outlines, critical plant studies begins with the reversal of Aristotelian taxonomy, taking seriously those plant characteristics of sessility and mute growth that Western philosophy all too quickly dismisses as “vegetative soul.” Marder’s philosophy is tendentious and can be utopian in its politics; it is also intellectually liberating insofar as it defies plant blindness with new questions about vegetal life. We thus consider such methods a provocation to explore how contemplation of the plant, from recent scientific controversies about its intelligence and genetic modification to its literary status as a symbol for growth and continuance, can alter our received histories of both the human and the ecological in medieval and Renaissance literary studies.
4) Roundtable: Eco-philology: Early Modern Environmental Words and World
Thursday, March 22, 9:00 to 10:30am, Harrah’s New Orleans Hotel, Vieux Carré Salon I
Sponsor: RSA Annual Meeting
Chair: Roland Greene, Stanford University
Discussants: Louisa Mackenzie, University of Washington, Seattle
Vin Nardizzi, University of British Columbia
Marjorie Rubright, University of Toronto
Debapriya Sarkar, University of Connecticut
Phillip John Usher, New York University
Abstract: The participants in this roundtable have been inspired by recent ecomaterialist research to consider anew the ways that Renaissance ideas of the human, nation, self, sex, state, etc., were constituted in and through environmental experience. We likewise share a sense that language has been underutilized as a resource for such investigations, even across literary traditions, such as French and English. Each of us will present a 5-7 minute paper that submits a word of particular ecocritical significance to an ecomaterialist inquiry that follows the turn towards what Roland Greene describes as “critical semantics,” exploring the ecological imbrication and dynamism of semantic change. What new information and insight can a consideration of these words’ history, evolution, and early modern uses bring to modern ecocriticism?